Reviews and commentary by Tony Isabella
"America's Most Beloved Comic-Book Writer & Columnist"
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TONY'S ONLINE TIPS
for Wednesday, September 7, 2005
Danish sock-puppet monster REPTILICUS has found its way into these columns far more often than seems reasonable given the sheer awfulness of the 1961 American International movie. That it comes into our view once again is due entirely to my recent acquisition of contemporaneous comic books based on the film.
Charlton Comics was part of a huge publishing operation that included magazines, mass market paperbacks, and even sheet music. The common denominators of these items were low production costs, variety, and volume. Charlton did it fast and cheap and, whenever something sold well, they did more of it.
I can't speak to what enticed Charlton into the giant monster business, but the company published paperback adaptations of GORGO, KONGA, and even REPTILICUS. Of the three, I have only managed to find the first, but hope springs eternal.
Charlton also published comics based on these monster movies. GORGO and KONGA enjoyed relatively healthy runs of over 20 issues apiece. REPTILICUS ran but two issues, though it was replaced by REPTISAURUS. The latter was initially identical in appearance to the former - the material was prepared for the original book - but, within an issue or two, Reptisaurus got an extreme makeover which turned him into a far more studly monster.
REPTILICUS #1 [August, 1961] is adapted from the movie, which had been released that year. Despite its short 81-minute running time, the film was padded with travelogue footage and a nightclub scene which included the song - please, Jesus, make it stop playing in my head - "Tivoli Nights." The comic book dispensed with both the song and the geography.
The cover was drawn by Rocco Mastroserio and it looks pretty much like the movie's poster. The art inside isn't nearly as good, but, on the plus side, Reptilicus doesn't look nearly as goofy as he did on the big screen. The writer was probably the prolific Joe Gill, who routinely wrote 100-150 pages of comics scripts each and every week during his many years at Charlton.
The REPTILICUS adaptation was a fairly accurate one. Drilling for oil, workers uncover the remains of a prehistoric creature. A skin sample is sent to be studied. Allowed to thaw, it starts to regenerate at a rapid pace. A lightning bolt strike makes it grow to its full and frightening size. The monster kills lots of Danes, does battle with soldiers, and is destroyed by fire.
Or is it?
The comic omits Reptilicus's acid phlegm and a scene where one of its legs is blown off by a depth charge. It almost glosses over the key plot point that allowed for sequels: that any part of this ancient terror could regenerate into a full-sized monster. While the movie ends with an underwater shot of the leg looking like it's about to take a stroll, the comic settles for a rather nondescript hunk of Reptilicus meat floating off to sea.
And that's where we'll pick up the story tomorrow.
See you then.
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THE "TONY" SCALE
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.
ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.
TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?
THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.
FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?
FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.
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